Welcome to Cam Akers season. Temperatures are sinking, but the Los Angeles Rams running back is just heating up.
Sean McVay finally saddled the rookie as a workhorse in the Rams' 24-3 blowout victory over the New England Patriots on Thursday night. Akers responded, gashing Bill Belichick's defense at every turn.
Akers generated a career-high 171 rushing yards in Week 14, the most rushing yards by a rookie since Nick Chubb had 176 in Week 10, 2018, versus Atlanta.
Out of the gate, McVay made it clear it was Akers' night. The rookie gobbled up yards in the opening stanza, gashing the Patriots for 84 rushing yards on nine carries in the first quarter alone (84 was his prior career-high for a full game, in Week 12 against San Francisco).
"I think he gave us a spark in that San Fran game even though we didn't really pull it out," McVay noted when asked about Akers' big day, per the team's official transcript. "I thought that momentum carried on to last week, and ultimately, he did a great job for us on a short week. His shoulder was banged up too, it sure didn't feel like it.
"He's a creative runner, he can put his shoulder down, he can finish, he's got the explosive speed. I thought he made some big-time plays catching some check downs. You can just see this guy is going to be a really special player. This was a great night for him and I'm really happy for Cam (Akers) and his teammates."
Akers' 171 rushing yards are the most by a Rams rookie since Hall of Famer Jerome Bettis had 212 in a Week 15, 1993 win at New Orleans.
In the last three games, the Rams have indicated they'd put more on the rookie's plate. Akers has earned 19.7 carries per game for 109.0 rush YPG and two rush TDs in the last three tilts (6.3 carries per game, 25.1 rush YPG, 0 rush TD in first eight games).
"He's shown sparks of that all year," Jared Goff said of Akers. "I think you go all the way back to the Washington game. He broke one off late in the game for about 40 yards and ever since then just trying to bottle that up and I thought tonight it was on full display for everyone to see what he can do. He's a special talent, a special player. Humble kid, does a great job, works hard and deserves all of this."
With easy speed, Akers gashed the edges of the Patriots defense all night. The rookie combines burst, ability to slither through a small crease, willingness to put a shoulder into tacklers and shiftiness in space.
The Rams offensive line deserves credit for creating holes for the rookie to scamper through. Outside of missing a few opportunities to punch the ball in the end zone the past couple of weeks, Akers has responded to being given a larger workload for the first time.
Thursday night, Akers played 50 snaps, while Malcolm Brown and Darrell Henderson each saw just six apiece, per Next Gen Stats. The rookie carried a career-high 29 times and caught two of three targets for 23 yards. Henderson had two carries for five yards. Brown saw one target.
As we speed toward the postseason, the 9-4 Rams are in prime position to swipe the NFC West heading into next week's game against the New York Jets. When we get to January football, the Rams will need Akers' breakout to continue to beat better teams on the docket.
"It's just a get-my-feet-wet type of game," Akers said of his performance, per the L.A. Daily News. "Doing something one time really doesn't mean anything.
"You've got to be consistent. That's what the goal is."